Monday, March 9, 2020
Ms. Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Member of Parliament (MP) is the Chair of the New Zealand Parliamentarians’ Group on Population and Development (NZPPD), a cross-party parliamentary group focusing on sexual and reproductive health (SRH), the rights of women and sustainable development in the Pacific region.
NZPPD’s Secretariat sat down with Priyanca to better understand what drives her as a Member of Parliament to lead this group.
- What motivated you to take on the role as Chair of NZPPD?
I’ve spent my entire working life on issues relating to women’s rights, including efforts aimed at ending gender-based violence and harmful traditional practices like forced marriage. My professional career before entering Parliament aligns with the focus of NZPPD, and the motivation behind becoming a Member of Parliament is the same as taking on this role – to make a positive difference in peoples’ lives, those whose voices are often unheard.
- What experience do you bring to the role as Chair?
Apart from my experience as a Member of Parliament, I’ve got a varied professional history from front line work with NGOs to policy advice with the Ministry for Women. I’ve been very active within the migrant and refugee communities and the women’s rights sector. In previous roles I’ve represented women’s groups at many occasions, lobbying Governments for change. Now I am in Parliament, at the table where change is made. So, to this role I bring a range of experiences, but primarily my drive to make a difference to the lives of women.
- While acknowledging that we in New Zealand have our own sexual and reproductive health and rights challenges, NZPPD’s role is to urge greater prioritisation of SRHR in Pacific Island countries. What value do you think New Zealand can add to the Pacific – New Zealand relationship?
First of all, New Zealand is a Pacific country and we have a strong and long-standing relationship with our northern neighbours. New Zealand’s role is not to tell Pacific Island countries what they should or should not do, but to support them to achieve their own goals, if this support is needed. I believe it is our obligation to assist when called for, and often we have the means to do so. New Zealand has a long history of change, including social and political change and I think we can add value to the relationship by sharing our experiences and lessons learnt. The Pacific Reset is an example of how we are trying to do things differently – steering away from the uneven power relationship inherent to the donor-recipient dynamic to instead working in partnership with people.
- Efforts to improve sexual and reproductive health and individuals’ rights and development have recently been met with resistance globally, often due to economic, political and social or ideological constraints. How can a parliamentary group such as NZPPD address such challenges?
We need to stay firm and continue to speak up for human rights, in particular the right for women to decide whether and when to marry, and when or whether to have children. We can also re-affirm our commitments to change as NZPPD did at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 in November. It is also important to work with other groups who share the same values and be part of formal alliances. As an organised collective, we will always be stronger than our individual efforts.
- Finally, if you could dream for a moment, how would the world look if all women and girls were able to make their own sexual and reproductive health decisions?
The world would look quite different, but for the better! In my world, there would not be unnecessary suffering for women and girls, but instead they would be able to make decisions about their own lives including about their sexual and reproductive health. The benefits of this encompasses so much – of course, it covers access to family planning but more broadly it means that women would have better health outcomes, and girls are more likely to finish their education and to move on to jobs where they earn money, opening for more opportunities for them.
Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.